The Weather Gods had promised more breeze for day two of Les Voiles de St. Barth, and it came in a steady line of squalls moving south to north across the island, presenting challenging conditions for competitors and the Race Committee alike.
Stark Raving Mad racing through the squalls in the Spinnaker 1 Class at Les Voiles de St. Barth
After a general recall, the Maxi and Spinnaker Zero classes took off on a 17 nautical mile course along the southern coast of St. Barth, only to disappear into a driving rain and building breeze halfway up the first beat as they got raked by the first squall.
With visibility on the start line greatly diminished, the Race Committee held off for about 40 minutes, and then with persistence and a weather break before the next approaching squall, they managed to send off Spinnaker 1-2-3 and Melges 24 classes on the same course as the Maxis. Spinnaker 4, Non-Spinnaker, and Multihull classes were next, racing on a 26 nm course out along the southern coast before doubling back and wrapping around the island’s north coast for an additional long beat and then a run back to the finish.
Given that the bigger, faster boats in the Maxi and Spinnaker Zero classes were able to cover distances quickly on the coastal courses’ long reaching and downwind legs, the Race Committee ran a second race for these classes, sending them again on the same 17 nm course.
Racing is extremely close, and after two days (and two or three races in each class), the top two boats in all classes, save Non-Spinnaker, are separated by no more than two points.
Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (Minneapolis, Minn.), managed two wins today to lead the Maxi class, with Caol Ila R (SUI) finishing second. In Spinnaker Zero, Near Miss (SUI) and Balearia (ESP) posted finish positions of two-one, and one-two, respectively, allowing the Swiss boat to lead now by one point. In Spinnaker 2, Steve Cucchiaro’s (Boston, Mass.) chartered Swan 56 White Rhino is tied on points with the Swan 48 Affinity, but leads on countback.
The five-boat Spinnaker 1 class has great depth of talent, and includes Peter Harrison’s Jolt 2 (GBR) with Volvo veteran Campbell Field at the wheel; past Les Voiles class winner Lazy Dog, a Melges 32, with Puerto Rico’s Sergio Sagramoso steering; and Stark Raving Mad IV (Newport Beach, Calif.), a J/125 with Tony Rey, past America’s Cup sailor and Olympic coach, serving as tactician.
Jim Madden who owns Stark Raving Mad IV, won his class at last month’s Heineken Regatta. An experienced racer, he has had a succession of Stark Raving Mad boats, including a J/160, J/145, Reichel/Pugh 66, and Swan 60. Madden likes to race with old friends and good sailors, most of them from California, with a few East Coasters, including Rey, mixed in.
Back racing at Les Voiles for the third time, Rey said, 'This regatta has been a highlight of the schedule all season, so it’s fantastic to have the J/125 here; it’s a perfect boat to race here. It’s 40 feet long and high performance enough that we can really get going when it’s windy….yesterday was great; we had good sailing and we had a good battle with Lazy Dog. They managed to beat us on corrected time, but we managed to get our nose out in front. What’s great about sailing here is it’s always a tough battle, at the start and at the finish, because of the harbor effect with the wind shift. So it’s a huge challenge all around the course.'
Rey is great at shifting gears – and boats – and contrasted Stark Raving Mad IV with his ride at the St Barth’s Bucket last month: the 180-foot ketch Marie. 'I’ve sailed everything in St Barth’s you can sail!,' laughed Rey. 'It’s absolutely the greatest place to race in the Caribbean. Full stop. Just fantastic. I’ll come back every year if someone will have me.'
Stark Raving Mad IV is giving Lazy Dog a good run, as it has led Sagramoso’s team across the finish line both days but corrected out in second place both races. Last year, Sagramoso competed at Les Voiles on his J/122, and he commented on his team’s switch to the Melges 32. 'You get addicted to speed, and when you start going in a boat and you see a smaller boat flying by, you want to do that too, you know, so we decided to go to a planing boat. It’s been a big change because we aren’t getting any younger, but it has been a lot of fun!'
Following a win yesterday Sagramoso said, 'So far it’s been going well. We just bought the boat in January and we have been training hard – it’s the same crew, same guys – and we are just now getting up to speed on that boat. It’s a very physical boat; it’s a lot of fun. It’s one-third the weight of the last boat we had, so it’s very, very physical.'
Tonight is the gala soiree and auction to benefit The Brain and Spine Institute - ICM at the Eden Rock on Baie St. Jean. Guests of honor are Bruno Magras, President of the Collectivitie of St. Barthelemy; Michel Magras, Senator of St. Barthelemy; and Professor Gerard Saillant, Chairman of ICM. Also tonight is the Crew Party on Shell Beach, with live entertainment and fireworks.
Tomorrow, Thursday, is the traditional lay day on Baie Saint Jean, where competitors will enjoy lunch at Nikki Beach as well as festivities that will include stand-up paddleboard racing.
Larry Rosenfeld, navigator on White Rhino, leading Spinnaker 2: 'We have a great crew, pretty much the same as we had on Defiance last year. Steve Cucchiaro is the charterer, and this year we have Cam Lewis and myself, Mark Laura, Jack Slattery, Stu Johnstone, and a cast of lots of other good people…but plenty of people on the back of the boat to decide which way to go!
'Yesterday was a little light. The ideal conditions for our boat is about 18 knots, and it never got above 14, so we are looking forward to today, which should have a little more wind. Sometimes in the lumpy seas it is difficult for a heavier boat to get through it, so we’ll do better hopefully today. Once the weather calls for a number three blade jib, then this boat goes very well, I think.'
Peter Harrison, helmsman on Jolt: This is Harrison’s second time at Les Voiles de St. Barth, and this year he has a very experienced crew including Campbell Field, an accomplished offshore and grand-prix navigator and tactician.
'We waited for the Spinnaker Zero class to get off and got very wet, and then had a good start, but opted on staying inshore and that was the wrong decision today. Those who went offshore got nicely lifted…but then, that is sailing. Once we got our kite up, we did well and then we had a nice reach with our Code Zero and had a reasonable beat in. So 70% of the race was perfect and the 30% cost us everything. With a further five to seven knots, it would be perfect!'
'It was a really interesting and great day of sailing. Conditions were really shifty and influenced by waves and quite a lot of rain in the first race. That moved the breeze around about 20 to 30 degrees, and at the same time we were going around different points so there was a big shift there. Overall it was a complicated day and we kept just looking forward and waiting for the next shift to come our way.
For the second race the rain was replaced with beautiful Caribbean sunshine, and although it was the same course as the first go-around it felt like a completely different race.'
Racing continues on Friday and Saturday (10 a.m. start) for the nine classes: Maxi, Spinnaker 0-1-2-3-4, Melges 24, Non-Spinnaker, and Racing Multihull.
All of Les Voiles de St. Barth on your iPhone or iPad Get Les Voiles wherever you are by downloading the Les Voiles de St. Barth application for free on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad from the iTunes App store. With it you can follow results, as well as find all the information on the event, including the Event Program, list of competitors, and results.
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